Great Spirit: The Iroquois believe in a the
Great Spirit, the Creator of all things.
and Evil Spirit: Next down the line were Good
Spirit and Evil Spirit. Both of these spirits had many little spirits
to help them. The Good Spirit made all the good things on earth. The
Evil Spirit, the twin, was responsible for all the bad things on
The Iroquois believed in an afterlife. They
believed their spirit would join the Good Spirit in the wonderful
place where the Good Spirit lived provided the Iroquois honored the
Good Spirit (and all the good spirit little helpers) and lived a good
life. There were always bad spirits around, doing their best to block
this from happening.
Face Society: Some bad spirits caused disease.
Other caused bad behavior. The False Face Society was an Iroquois
healing group. The Iroquois False Face Society knew they could not
kill a bad spirit. Their job was to scare the bad spirits. They used
masks and chants and rattles and dance to scare the evil spirits and
to chase them away.
One bad spirit was the flying head. The Iroquois
False Face Society was very familiar with the flying head. He lived in
the forest and caused all the disease he could. He was a very bad
spirit. If someone had a spooky dream, and saw a flying head, they
would go to the False Face Society and ask for help.
To chase the flying head away
1. The dreamer would be told to carve a face on
a living basswood tree.
2. Once the face was carved, the tree would be
3. The piece of tree that had the outline of a
flying face carved on it would be taken to the wood carver. All
other parts of the tree would be used as always.
4. The wood carver made a wood mask following
the lines of the carved face on the log. The masks created by the
wood carvers always had twisted features and looked scary.
5. Once the mask was ready, the dreamer and his
or her family clan hosted a feast. They were responsible for the
preparation of all the food. During the feast, with the help of
chants and rattles, the members of the False Face Society, invited a
good spirit to take the place of the bad one. The mask became
magical. It was able to reshape itself into the home of a good
6. From that time on, the mask was treasured
and honored. It was now the home of a good spirit that had to be
protected by the dreamer and the clan.
Most of the ailments that were brought to them
were easy fixes. If someone came to them with a headache, the
ceremony would be performed in the longhouse for everyone to
enjoy. The society would don their masks, and dance, and
blow ashes in the sufferers face. In minutes, they were done. Their
magic was that powerful.
Their reward was some tobacco and some corn
mush given to them by the grateful family, who was sure that the
sufferer was now cured.
The person they cured automatically became a
member of the society. If you were helped, it was important that you
go on to help others. That was the Iroquois way.
Each spring and fall, members of the False Face
Society each wore a mask and went from home to home, chanting and
shaking rattles, and making as much of a racket as they could. This
was the twice-annual evil spirit house cleaning festival. The racket
they made was designed to scare any lurking little evil spirits away
that they might have overlooked during the months previous.